West of Wichita

Settling the High Plains of Kansas

Craig Miner

This volume, which presents a "slice-of-life" on the Plains during its early settlement, adds rich detail to our understanding of the struggle for survival in a harsh landscape that tested the hardiest pioneer. Miner concentrates not only on the major economic events of the period—railroad building, Indian raids, the grasshopper invasion of 1874, the blizzard of 1886—but also on the more personal experiences equally important: building sod houses, choosing crops, filing of claims, fighting varmints, and dealing with the deaths of children on the prairie.

“Magnificent. . . . A subtle and often moving account of pioneer life. . . . A truly splendid book.”


“Regional history at its best. . . . Many of the traditional tales of early hardships—grasshopper plagues, Indian attacks, the stress of loneliness and isolation, drought, blizzards, prairie fires, and the unaccustomed hazards of nature—are retold with vigor and a sense of immediacy. These gritty tales of pioneer persistence and stubbornness are used to illustrate the region’s cyclical history of hope and despair. . . . Not the least of Miner’s talents is his engaging style. Images are alive, progression of the story lively, and the analysis convincing. This first-rate book is an important addition to the history of Kansas and, more broadly, to the study of western settlement.”

American Historical Review
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